Trump-Pelosi trade maneuvers: USMCA, China tariffs, & Brazil-Argentina steel



Today the Trump administration, with Democrats & AFLCIO leaders in tow, announced new final revisions and deal with Mexico on the new NAFTA 2.0 free trade agreement called the USMCA.

According to the corporate media, revisions to the USMCA demanded by Democrats since the initial agreement was reached with Mexico a year ago, have been agreed to by Trump, Pelosi, and the president of Mexico, Lopez-Obrador. The revisions reportedly mean more protections for US labor in particular. However, all we have at the moment is what’s reported in the corporate and mainstream media about the revisions. We’ll have to wait to read the final print of the actual agreement. But even the media reports are not much more than vague generalities about the terms and conditions of the revisions. The much heralded improvements to US labor interests in particular don’t appear that different from Trump’s originally negotiated deal a year ago.

The official media story line is that the new revisions provide protections for American workers now that did not exist previously during the 20+ years of NAFTA 1.0. During that period, easily 4-5 million US jobs were diverted to Mexico.

At issue during negotiations on revisions to NAFTA–now called the USMCA–was whether US inspectors would be allowed access to Mexico factories and businesses to ensure that the new labor terms of the revised USMCA trade deal were being enforced. Lopez Obrador and Mexican business have been adamantly opposed to allowing US inspectors access to Mexican factories, which suggests they had something to hide. (Mexico and AMLO both are in agreement on this issue). THey demanded that, instead of inspectors, there would be a joint US-Mexican panel to arbitrate labor disputes. But the issue is independent inspection, not a panel to rule on disputes that may never rise due to absence of inspection. What good is a panel of any kind ruling on a dispute that doesn’t get raised because there’s no independent inspection in the first place? Also important is whether the inspectors inspect unannounced, or whether they have to give a pre-notice before they inspect (that phony arrangement is how the US OSHA law has functioned with little effect for decades). Moreover, if there’s panel, how is it determined and what is its composition? If it’s equal US-Mexico representation, it might never come to a final decision.

In other words, if the final terms and conditions in print for the USMCA provide only for panels, in lieu of unannounced inspectors, then the so-called great labor protections touted by Democrats as part of a final deal are really just another fig leaf of labor protection.

While the mainstream media and Democrats talk up the labor revisions in today’s final deal, the real substance of the recent revisions–sought by Trump and US corporations and bankers–has had more to do with protecting the interests of US big pharma companies and US oil and bankers.

Big pharma has always wanted NAFTA-USMCA to include what it wanted in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal it didn’t get in 2017: i.e. protections on pricing of its drugs in Mexico at levels closer to its price gouging levels in the US. The fine print in the USMCA will tell whether it got this, or at least got a big change from Mexico’s current rules that keep the price of drugs lower in Mexico than in the US.

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